Eargasm 2012: Disco, lust & whatnot

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Catchy, hook-rich party rock rules my 2012

As with the case in 2011, my best album pick in 2012 isn’t from this year. It’s Partie Traumatic by the Black Kids, an indie pop gem from 2008.

Which is kind of strange, since 2012 is the year I listened to the most number of new albums, most of them from bands I’ve never heard before, like Pinback and Work Drugs and Hotel Diablo and dozens of others, covering various genres, from metal to indie rock to dream pop, to a smattering of sad bastard music. It’s just that, when I sit down and assess the previous months and think of a fitting soundtrack, it’s Partie Traumatic that immediately pops in mind. The fact that it’s the album that has stayed the longest in my iPod says something about it.

(It’s actually a tough choice between this and Candlebox’s Love Stories and Other Musings. But since I like to remember 2012 as one big helluva party, as opposed to a 12-month heartache, I picked Partie Traumatic. Yeah.)

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Lana del Rey provided audio lust

Not to say, though, that the new releases suck. There are actually a lot of runner-ups, special for one reason or another: Napalm Death’s Utilitarian unleashed my pent-up angst and was for those nights I felt like breaking windows and faces. Ditto with Baphomet’s Death in the Beginning, which re-introduced blood and gore to my playlist, and Shining’s Redefining Darkness, an open invitation to suicide. I also remember how Anathema’s Weather System made my wife cry because of its sheer loneliness, how Work Drug’s Delta made my introduction to dream pop a trippy experience, how Lana del Rey’s Born to Die made me want to seduce teenage girls, how Muse’s The 2nd Law, Ball Park Music’s Museum and Pinback’s Information Retrieved made me wonder how these three bands missed my radar for so long.

And then there are the others, new and old: Rancid’s Let the Dominoes Fall  (2009); Sleeper Agent’s Celebrasion (2011); The Naked and the Famous’ Passive Me, Aggressive You (2010); Modest Mouse’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (2007); Yo La Tengo’s Fade; Floating Action’s Fake Blood; Soundgarden’s King Animal; Jackyl’s Best in Show; Hotel Diablo’s The Return to Psycho, California; Shinedown’s Amaryllis; Neil Halstead’s Palindrome Hunches; Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth; Skunk Anansie’s Black Traffic; and the compilation album Re-Machined: A Tribute to Deep Purple. In one way or another, these albums — and many more that I may have forgotten — helped me survive this sad, mad roller-coaster ride that is 2012.

All in all, it has been a good year, music-wise, and I’m already excited about what next year will bring. If things go out as scheduled, there will be a new Black Sabbath album, their first with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals after so many years. Also, a new Megadeth. My ears can’t wait.

Eargasm: This lion doesn’t bite

British Lion by Steve Harris. When you pick an album called British Lion by the bassist and primary songwriter of legendary heavy metal band Iron Maiden, you expect — and rightfully so — to hear, in whatever amount, that distinct, old-school NWOBH sound. Not exactly Maiden-esque, but perhaps by way of Saxon or Diamond Head or even Motorhead. But when the album sounds like a collection of Journey outtakes when the band was still in need of a decent singer, then you begin to agree with those Christian nutjobs that God hates heavy metal and is doing everything to destroy it.

My one and only — but very major — beef with this album is with the singer. (Okay, I also have an issue with the sound quality, but I got this album through illegal means so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining about that.) As a vocalist, Richard Taylor can hardly sing as much as he can mumble. Perhaps he’s an electric performer onstage, but in the album he sounds weak and uninspired — and that weighs the whole thing down. I’m saying tracks like “This is My God” and “Karma Killer” would have been memorable songs if only they were sung by a singer who has more conviction and passion in his voice. Arnel Pineda or that dude from Tyketto could’ve made “The Chosen Ones” and “These are the Hands” sound awesome. And for a song titled “Judas,” it doesn’t have any punch in it. In short, thanks to Taylor, full lift off is not accomplished in any of the cuts despite undeniable potential, and the result is a  British lion that bares more gums than fang. (Verdict: One star)

More reviews to follow, if I can find time to write ’em. Terribly busy these days…

Eargasm: Of hot cakes and death sentences

Man, too many interesting albums coming out these days, too little time to listen to and digest them. For a self-avowed music freak like me, that’s actually a predicament. Here are my brief takes on the online loots currently blazing on my player.

Hot Cakes by The Darkness. The band who, on their 2003 debut album Permission to Land, proudly proclaims that they believe in a thing called love only to retract it a couple of songs later by saying love is “only a feeling,” is back and telling us now that love is not the answer and, in fact, “will make you stupid.” Crazy dudes, these Brits are. But an album for heartbroken people this is not (despite the standout songs “Love is Not the Answer” and “Forbidden Love”). Actually, as one can expect from these Spandex-wearing glam rock worshipers, this album — their third after years of inactivity — is quite a party. Check out “Every Inch Of You,” “Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us” and my personal fave “Everybody Have A Good Time,” which, to these ears, is as stirring and celebratory as KISS’ “Raise Your Glasses” from the Psycho Circus album. And that Radiohead cover “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”? Awesome. Just plain awesome, man. Chill those beers and start sending out invitations. Let’s party rock like it’s the Eighties. (Verdict: Three and a half stars)

Dig in Deep by Tyketto. Admittedly, this is my first exposure to this band. All I knew before listening to this is that they’re one of those late Eighties/early Nineties bands whose careers got nowhere because of grunge, and then regrouped in the 21st century to give it one more shot, delight their orphaned fans, and perhaps earn more paychecks along the way. No one can really blame them for doing so, especially if they bring decent enough cuts on the table. Album-opener “Faithless” is an attention-grabber, a good tune for initiates. A soundtrack for deep introspection, it has this perfect-for-late-night-driving feel to it. The good vibes continue in the next two tracks, “Love to Love” and “Here’s Hoping It Hurts,” both of which would be rightfully at home on a Black Stone Cherry album. With one or two exceptions, the rest of the songs  are just as hummable, with heavy surges (the intro of “The Fight Left in Me”) and nifty guitar pluckin’ (midway through “Evaporate”) generously sprinkled here and there. Think Journey at their prime. If you like your rock smooth and unobtrusive, you’ll like Tyketto. (Verdict: Three stars)

Death Sentence by Dublin Death Patrol. Enough with the party-rockin’ and all this maudlin shit; time to get heavy and evil. And heavy and evil, of course, best describe this album. Just what can you expect when the band is jointly fronted by Testament’s Chuck Billy and former Exodus screamer Steve Souza, two of thrash metal’s most notorious vocalists? Pure aggression, man. That, and nothing else. Which could be either good or bad depending on the listener. On one  hand you could ask what’s the point of having a side project if you will not deviate from your original band’s sound. On the other you could just choose not to give a fuck. If you just want to, say, “remember to dismember” (as a line from “Macabre Candor” goes), then you’re in for a sinister treat. (“My Riot,” “Blood Sirens,” “Conquer and Divide” and “Broken” are four other tracks to pulverize your eardrums until you cry out for Bon Iver.) The dual vocal approach — Chuck Billy’s ungodly barks and Steve Souza’s furious snarls — is a point of interest. Also, the obvious nod to old-school thrash metal. With these ingredients on the recipe, why go overly introspective over a side project that seems to have put more emphasis on having fun than exploring new avenues of creativity? Dublin Death Patrol is so brutal the United Nations or Amnesty International should be paying attention. (Verdict: Three and a half stars)